The global impact of sand mining on beaches and dunes – Ocean & Coastal Management

USACE project Sand Replenishment 5.5 mile strech of Anna Maria Island, FL (by Carol VanHook CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).
USACE project Sand Replenishment 5.5 mile strech of Anna Maria Island, FL (by Carol VanHook CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr).

Lead author, Nelson Rangel-Buitrago has generously provided with a preview of this upcoming article that will appear in the March 15, 2023 issue of the online journal Ocean & Coastal Management

Beaches and coastal dunes have always supplied sand for a wide range of uses, and initially the extracted volumes were limited to buckets, wheelbarrows, or small pickup truck loads. However, starting in the late twentieth century, and thanks to urban development, especially for coastal tourism, coastal and river sand has been extracted at an accelerated pace, and on a much grander scale.

The two greatest drivers of sand mining are the resource’s use as aggregate in concrete, and as nourishment sand for beach reconstruction to protect coastal property (the consumer of much of the concrete).

The immediate result has created a litany of environmental, social, and economic damages. Globally, most sand mining is done in opposition to local opinion and laws, creating an atmosphere of corruption in many coastal societies.

Such mining also has become the basis of the formation of violence-prone sand mafias, who engage in and defend the “illegality” of this activity.

There exists a dire need for global policies that will have a real effect on reducing sand mining and its impact on coastal beaches and dunes, as well as for new solutions to reduce the collateral consequences. Any management strategy to tackle coastal sand mining must begin with understanding underlying processes, in this case, the sand life cycle and the Coastal Sand-Supply Network.

This opinion paper highlights the complexity and the adverse effects of coastal sand mining, as well as the severity and urgency of the problem. Based on this information, guidelines are proposed that could be used for global agenda-making regarding sand-extraction regulation.

Future solutions should prioritize using alternative aggregates as well as changes in construction techniques, and a return to the concept of Sand Rights – that, like water rights, downstream reliance on sand resources must be respected. This approach will require integrated regional management between offshore regulators, coastal communities, and the associated river basins that are the upstream sources for sand…


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